Occasionally something comes along that could truly revolutionise the technology that we use everyday. Mobile devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) are ripe for innovation, and it’s just the start of a new era where everything is connected like never before. To realise that vision, “Snappy Ubuntu Core” is a platform that will power the next generation of smart devices.
Snappy Ubuntu Core – powering IoT
First announced in December 2014, Snappy Core is a lightweight Ubuntu distribution for the cloud and Internet of Things (IoT). Canonical has been hard at work showing off how Snappy works on real, connected devices.
Who will use Snappy Ubuntu Core? The first early adopters to use Snappy Ubuntu Core on devices will be “pioneers in robotics, drones and open hubs for connected things” the company said. It’s not surprise that connected devices are the focus for Snappy, as the Internet of Things is expected to be a billion dollar industry by 2020 with more than 25 billion connected, smart devices:
Ubuntu aims to leverage the huge developer base to further its machine-to-machine plans. The focus at the moment is on the inventors and “crazies”, as Canonical and Ubuntu’s founder Mark Shuttleworth recently said in an interview with The Next Web..
“We didn’t want to crowd out this launch with those [big name] kinds of brands, because we’re very specifically focused at the crazies, the innovators, the guys that are building lawnmower robots and telco base stations.” – Mark Shuttleworth
What is Snappy?
Snappy is the key in Ubuntu’s Internet of Things plan. It’s basically a new way to distribute software packages, but it opens up dozens of new scenarios for Ubuntu. Snappy makes it simple to guarantee an upgrade or installation of software – if it fails it won’t install at all, meaning that it’s impossible to break a device through a software upgrade. In essence this means that it will succeed, or make no changes at all.
Perhaps companies such as Apple could learn a thing or two from Snappy, regarding the smooth roll out of software updates…
What’s so good about Snappy and Ubuntu Core?
Here’s a brief summary:
- Ubuntu Core is a secure platform for smart things with an app store that brings the very latest software straight to devices and easy connections to every cloud
- Ubuntu Core is aimed at inventors who want to create new devices or apps for devices
- Ubuntu on connected devices are pioneers in robotics, drones and open hubs for connected things
- Ubuntu makes it easy to develop amazing apps for incredible devices on your laptop, test on the cloud and publish straight to a global market of diverse devices
- ARMv7 and X86-64 bit are supported. Using standard PC equipment makes device prototyping easy
- Ubuntu Core gives developers bullet-proof security, reliable updates and access to the Ubuntu ecosystem
Shuttleworth goes on to state:
“Snappy is Ubuntu. You can log into it and it looks just like Ubuntu and it’s completely familiar until you try and install a piece of software. You’ll be told that the old package management system doesn’t work here and that the new one is called Snappy.
Snappy has some really nice properties… Every change to the system either succeeds or doesn’t happen – we call that a transactional systems management approach. The way we lay the files down on the image is very different and allows us to essentially guarantee that upgrades either succeed or never happen.
We launched that in the cloud market because that’s where our developers are strongest – it costs developers very, very little put up one of those images and play with it.”
Snappy seems to be especially relevant to devices such as smartphones, particularly when you consider how easy it usually is to brick a device if an update goes wrong.
New devices based on Snappy Ubuntu Core
Who is using Snappy now and what devices can we expect to see? Shuttleworth believes that anyone involved robotics, drones, sensors and cameras have a lot to get excited about – and basically anyone who wants to build millions of connected devices.
Companies like Erle Robotics are already using the platform, resulting in innovative new products like the Erle-copter – the world’s first Ubuntu Core-powered drone. And other companies such as Ninja Blocks, are building smart home control and automation systems based on Ubuntu Core and Snappy applications.
But besides secure and reliable software updates, any device which uses the platform can deliver apps to users via the Ubuntu white-labelled store.
“From scientific breakthroughs by autonomous robotic explorers to everyday miracles like home safety and energy efficiency, our world is being transformed by smart machines that can see, hear, move, communicate and sense in unprecedented ways”, said Shuttleworth recently.
“Ubuntu Core enables our new app store for open robots,” says Brian Gerkey, CEO of the Open Source Robotics Foundation. “That creates a market for innovation and competition in smart robotics, with apps and updates delivered straight from developers to a new class of open, intelligent robots powered by open platforms and open protocols”.
Vendors of drones and other ‘smart’ devices can deliver reliable software updates and sell their software on an open platform, which attracts innovators and experts to collaborate. And devices such as home hubs and set-top boxes create new markets for apps from the developer community. By using Ubuntu, the whole process is said to much easier – for example by developing apps on a laptop, testing in the cloud and then publishing straight to a global market of devices.
Ubuntu is particularly suited to help developers interested in vision and sensor processing, motion and location, and has been used in a wide variety of high profile projects such as autonomous vehicles, space mission control, and smart displays, especially embedded devices.
It has never been easier to develop for embedded devices…Ubuntu Core on the cloud is a perfect platform for test and dev, I can simulate my device online and launch thousands of simulated devices on demand – Alexander Sack, Canonical
The Internet of Things necessitates new ways of developing and deploying software on a huge range of devices. As our homes, smartphones and cars become every more sophisticated, the challenges to make everything work seamlessly are huge. Developers need simple, effective and powerful ways to prototype their innovations and ultimately create the end products.
Canonical certainly seems to be one of the pioneers with Snappy Ubuntu Core. We can’t wait to see new devices and smartphones appearing throughout 2015.